Sconce, Jeffrey. Sleaze Artists: Cinema at the Margins of Taste, Style, and Politics. Durham: Duke University Press, 2007.
Jeffrey Sconce introduces Sleaze Artists by reflecting on a review by Pauline Kael that was featured in Harper’s in the late 60s. The article vehemently protested that the trashy hippie drama Wild in the Streets (1968) says more about cinema than the more revolutionary art films of the day. The dispelling of good taste for bad is championed in her article and Kael states that true cinephiles, “…talk less about good movies than what they love in bad movies” (2). Sconce draws on this to reveal that with the rise of the digital age the ‘low brow’ and b-movies are dominating the industry. Film studies have similarly expanded to acknowledge these seedy genres and Sconce pronounces that these films “…may not be ‘great art’ (by almost anyone’s criteria)… it is nonetheless a ‘great artifact’, and well worth the attention on any number of fronts” (4). The book then sets out to explore these seedy genres and sub genres not only demonstrating their worth but revealing the growing scope of film academia itself.
Sconce continuous his introduction by defining sleaze and tracking its history in academia. Reflections on ‘camp’ and its reception is accompanied by a reflection of cultural theory and its role in distinguishing ‘camp’ from ‘high art’. The author then refers to his work with paracinema and discusses his article “Trashing the Academy” (1995) in which he defines paracinema as an alternative culture which focuses on trash cinema with very specific, and an almost obsessive, set of standards. The sleaze film is suggested to be an escape for the intellectual who is bored of the repetitive nature of commercial film. The author also draws from Barthes to demonstrate that these films offer a new vision for the academic that is subjected to “textual boredom” (9).
The author then reflects on the contents of his book whose articles range from new perspectives on the sexploitation of Doris Wishman to an analysis of Aztec horror cinema. The article which most pertains to the focus of this site is “Para-Paracinema: The Friday the 13th Film Series as Other to Trash and Legitimate Cultures” by Matt Hills which reflects on how the Friday the 13th series is stuck between mainstream and trash and cannot be defined by either. Friday the 13th has grown its own cult following and in many ways is a trashy subgenre that is often overlooked and unrepresented much like the films that fall under the title of paracinema.